Students are being urged to spot the signs of deadly brain bug meningitis - and not to confuse symptoms with a hangover or freshers’ flu.
Charity Meningitis UK is offering parents and students heading to college and university potentially life-saving symptoms cards.
The charity is also appealing to students to ensure they’re up-to-date with their meningitis vaccinations and to book an appointment with their doctor if they are not.
It warns meningitis cases peak in winter months where germs easily spread by students living in close confines or kissing so people need to be extra vigilant in spotting the signs.
Teenagers and those up to the age of 24 are the second most at-risk group from the killer brain bug, behind children under five.
As many as 90 per cent of all new students will fall ill during the first few weeks of term, displaying symptoms including fever, sore throat and severe headache.
Meningitis UK’s Chief Executive Steve Dayman said: “We’ve come across tragic cases where students have gone to bed to sleep off a hangover, and have later been found either dangerously ill or dead in the morning. Remember that meningitis can kill in under four hours.
“I cannot emphasise enough how important it is to tell someone if you’re feeling rough and to be aware of the symptoms of meningitis.
“And, if you notice a friend’s under the weather, stick around to make sure their condition doesn’t deteriorate. If it does, seek urgent medical help.
“I encourage students to take the five minutes to check they’re up-to-date with their meningitis vaccinations as this could save their life.
“People’s immune systems may well be weakened as fresher flu spreads. This coupled with lack of sleep, stress, the colder weather and poor diet means the first few months of university are a key time for people to be alert.”
Classic meningitis symptoms in adults are a headache, stiff neck and a dislike of bright light.
Symptoms that may exist with meningococcal septicaemia – the blood poisoning form - include aching limbs, cold hands and feet and a rash which starts like pin prick marks and develops rapidly into purple bruising.
Students are urged to seek medical help as soon as they become concerned. They should not wait for a rash to develop, as this is a sign of the more dangerous meningococcal septicaemia and may not appear with meningitis.
The Search 4 a Vaccine Campaign aims to raise £7million to fund vital research into developing a vaccine against Meningitis B - the most common form of meningitis in the UK.
A video aimed at teenagers and students called Meningitis - Know the Signs, can be found on the student section of the Meningitis UK website.
For a symptoms pack and further information, please call Meningitis UK on 0117 947 63 20 or visit www.meningitisUK.org.